What happens when you apply a successful city pub formula to an out-of-town country inn? AMANDA ROBINSON heads to the Mendips to see for herself…
Newly opened at the back end of last year, The Redan Inn sits comfortably on a corner of the main road through Chilcompton (near Radstock and Midsomer Norton, if you’re wondering…). Resurrected after years of neglect by the winning team behind The Pumphouse at Hotwells Basin and Long Ashton’s The Bird in Hand – think Best Restaurant, Best Chef (twice), Outstanding Wine List, Bib Gourmands and two AA rosettes – The Redan is now a cosy inn with seven rather classy rooms above the pub itself (already popular with visitors to the area, including, we’re told, some advance bookings for Glastonbury week…).
We arrived on a chilly winter’s evening, and were glad to thaw out by the cosy log burner in the bar area. The inn is what you might call a rambling building, which has made it easy to create different spaces: from the bar and the (ever-so slightly more formal) dining area to a private room near the kitchen.
Just off the dining room are two permanent marquees with comfy seating for relaxed drinking (and private parties). A quick peek into the very shiny bespoke kitchen revealed state- of-the-art induction hobs and plenty of other bespoke kit for head chefs Jack and Rob and team to play with. And with all that high end experience, plus top locally sourced produce, the menu was not short on inspiration.
Settling down to eat, we got our evening off to a flying start with a tasty choice of hors d’oeuvres: we sidestepped the roll mop herrings and horseradish, and pork rillettes, cornichons and toast (both £3.50), in favour of a platter of (warm) homemade bread and smoked cod’s roe (£4). No supermarket pink gloop here: this dip was as light in texture as it was in colour, a delicate off- white speckled with red chilli flakes – a pleasing punch to its creamy silkiness.
Pasta for starters for me: in the hand-crafted shape of rabbit agnolotti (£8). This filled pasta from Piedmont in Italy (it means ‘priest’s hat’) takes small pieces of flattened pasta dough and folds them over a filling of roasted meat – in this case, local rabbit – then pinches them together by hand. Sitting on a bed of finely shredded savoy, the broth was a light rabbit stock finished with a splash of white wine. So tasty. My veggie friend went for the grilled hispi cabbage heart (£5.50), served quite simply in one thick slice, smoky from the grill with crushed hazelnuts, goat’s curds and whey. Who would have thought the flavour notes of goat’s cheese and crisp cabbage would go so well together? Gotta try it.
From meat to fish for the next course, as I chose the roast cod, brandade croquette, celeriac and glazed chicory (£16): crisp and soft, juicy and sweet, it really was a fusion of texture as well as flavour. The biggest surprise was the citrus sauce over the glazed chicory, the perfect complement to the freshness of the cod. Again, one to try at home… Non-meat-eater K went for the polenta with squash and mushrooms (£12.50): presented in a shallow white bowl, it was, she said, “how veggie food should be”. The fine polenta was soft and creamy with just the right amount of cheese, while the grilled butternut squash and the tiniest of wild mushrooms were topped with toasted seeds and sage leaves fried in butter until crisp. A generous portion, I was more than happy to help out. Indulgent and healthy all at the same time, this was an inspired dish.
To finish, yes, we did consider the blood orange Eton Mess or apple crumble (with salt caramel custard and vanilla ice cream), but we decided on the rhubarb and custard tart (£6.50). Did I mention the rhubarb came several ways? Poached, a jelly and an ice cream, it wasn’t what we were expecting at all, and rounded off the meal in fine style.
They’ve taken a lot of trouble over The Redan Inn, and it shows. Get yourself over: for food this good, the trip is more than worth it.